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Two musical events celebrate Argentinian folklore and tango

February 2012

Since 1970, the eminent chamber ensemble Musica Camerata has sought to bring to light music that is beautiful and original, yet not as well known as it should be.

This month’s concert, with composers from the Americas, Spain and “chez nous,” held at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts, promises to be revelatory and inspiring.

“Quebec composer Jacques Hétu is one of my favourite Canadian composers,” says violinist Luis Grinhauz, a founding member of Musica Camerata.

“Like all the great classical composers, he had a clear image of the structure of the music. His Adagio and Rondo for string quartet is a very non-sentimental, beautiful piece of music. His language was absolutely 20th century but it is very easy to understand his music. The message is very clear.”

Late 19th-century composer Amy Beach’s Theme and Variations for flute and string quartet will be on the program as well. One of the few female composers of the time, Beach created “terrific” music, Grinhauz says.

“It is late romantic, very related to Scriabin and Rachmaninoff. As far as we know, we were one of the first to play her chamber music, which was not very well known, because she was a woman. Yet she wrote 200 works including piano concerts, symphonies and solo works for piano.”

Alberto Ginastera, who died in 1983, is Argentina’s best-known composer.

“I met him when we were living in Argentina and I asked him about his piece Impresiones de la Puna for flute and string quartet. He wrote it when he was 18 and said it was ‘old fashioned’ and he didn’t want to hear about it. Yes, it’s old fashioned, but it’s beautiful.”

“There is always a drama” when tango is danced and when it is sung. Photo courtesy of the High Lights festival

Grinhauz explained that the piece is based on folklore. “People think the only Argentinian music is tango, but composers use folklore in their pieces, music that incorporates elements of Gaucho country music, old Spanish songs and music of the Incas.”

Music by Spanish and Brazilian composers will also be featured, but in this concert, there will be no tango music.

However, when the conversation turns to another much-anticipated show, Tango Pasion at Place des Arts, Grinhauz’s love for the music he grew up with is palpable.

The show will feature Argentinean tango, music and song presented by 12 of Buenos Aires’ finest tango dancers, and a live seven-piece orchestra directed by Juan Carlos Zunini.

“This kind of music is sensual and passionate, and there is a tenderness in the melodies that you have to hear to be captivated,” Grinhauz says.

He explains that tango is not folklore, because every piece is created by an individual composer.

“Tango is danced, in principle, but it is also sung. It is a sad poem that you can dance.

“Someone once said, ‘there is always a drama,’ a man whose woman left so he is crying, or the love of a mother, but never political, never a protest, though sometimes it could be a social critique.”

Grinhauz said that most of these poems were written by men and traditionally only men played in the orchestra, but there were female singers right from the beginning.

“I have records of those ladies of the tango, and then the tango is to be listened to, like jazz. You don’t dance, you sit and have a glass of wine.”

Musica Camerata will perform at the Segal Centre on February 26, at 2:30 pm. 514 739-7944.

Tango Pasion runs February 23-25 at Theatre Maisonneuve at Place des Arts. 514-842-2112.



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